Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Matthew 7:13,14 Narrow Gate, Wide Road

In the gospel of Matthew Jesus spoke of a narrow gate, cramped road as opposed to a broad and spacious road. In what sense is the gate narrow or the road broad and spacious? Is it moral, doctrinal, lifestyle, or something else? Could it be a contrast of “fruits of spirit vs fruitage of the flesh”? One thing is for sure, love would identify true followers.

One (non-Witness) commentary essentially said the narrow gate was moral self restraint while the broad and spacious road was amoralistic, even immoral and self indulgent. All the other non-Witness (non Jehovah’s Witnesses) commentaries pretty much held to the same idea.

But Jesus spoke of more than morality. He spoke of the those who appear very religious and worked hard performing impressive signs. Yet Jesus rejected them. Were these only individuals or were they even possibly religious leaders, religions as a form of worship?

Stop and think a moment. Did Jesus condemn the sinners as much as he condemned the religious leaders? Of the religious leaders, Jesus said: "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees" and “You are from your father the devil.” But regarding the sinners, tax collectors (despised for being traitors in their allegiance to Rome), and even prostitutes Jesus said: The sinners are going in ahead of the religious leaders into God’s Kingdom (because they both repented AND truly performed righteous acts.) (Humility is also a vital requirement as shown in the account of the sinner who stood at the back of the synagogue. Luke 18:13)

All non-Witness commentaries focused on the individual character, not the religion. One reason for doing this is to advance the "all religions are good and are just different paths to God" idea. For commentators to suggest that a religion(s) may be wrong would cause them to alienate vast segments of people and confuse even more people.

Thankfully, Jesus wasn't hypocritically cautious like that. He openly condemned the superficial religion that God's own people had become, even telling them that their "house" (way of worship) had been abandoned to them. But coming back to the “all religions are just separate paths leading to God” idea, stop and think about what Jesus was saying not only here in Matthew 7, but throughout his short 3.5-year ministry on earth. He came to demonstrate that he alone was the path leading to God. Peter learned that lesson for he boldly declared that only through Jesus could people acceptably, properly approach God. So that immediately eliminates all religions that do not accept Jesus. Yes, this may be a very hard pill to swallow, but it drives home the point that God does not accept every form of worship so we, therefore, should make sure what we are doing is acceptable to God. (I do not discount the fact that there are very nice people in non-Christian religions. I've met many people from India and the Middle East who are far kinder and more sincere than most nominal Christians from my homeland. But that is not the point. The point is who is pleasing God the way HE WANTS to be pleased?)

But perhaps you will reason in your heart, “Well, yes, non-Christian religions are unacceptable. But all Christians religions are trying to follow the Bible and Jesus.” If you feel that way, you need to once again review Jesus words at Matthew 7:21-23. So yes, whole religions can and are directly condemned by God. Which ones? Instead of answering that list (which is now very long), it is much easier to answer which one IS approved. Verse 21 indicates that only those doing the will of the Father are approved. Verses 24-26 shows that the religion (and individuals in it) must really apply themselves to living the life outlined by Jesus.

Real diamond vs fake or costume jewelry. Real gold vs Fool's Gold. Rare masterpieces vs deceptive reproductions. When these are evaluated, the latter are shown to be worthless. Who evaluates worship and religion? It is not we humans.  We don't get to tell God, “This is all you are getting from me, so deal with it.” The worship supposedly goes to God, so he gets to decide whether he accepts it or not. According to his own word (the Bible), he didn't accept most of what is out there. So this is not a case of joining a church because it makes you feel comfortable or it agrees with your viewpoints. Instead, a person truly interested in learning about and “doing the will of the Father” will need to carefully search that they are doing it God’s way.

More on the subject:
·         Do All Roads Lead to God?
·         Matthew 7:21

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